Travel fares, Umrah package prices soar amid Ramadan rush

Pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Makkah pray. (@HajMinistry)
Pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Makkah pray. (@HajMinistry)
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Updated 21 March 2024
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Travel fares, Umrah package prices soar amid Ramadan rush

Pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Makkah pray. (@HajMinistry)
  • Tour operators double rates amid high demand due to festive rush

Riyadh

Umrah travel agencies and tour operators have nearly doubled the price of tour packages per person, with fees expected to triple in anticipation of a heavy rush during Qiyam Al-Layl, the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Umrah travel operators in Riyadh have almost doubled the price of individual tour bus packages from the regular fare of SR110 ($30) to up to SR200.

This fee will further increase to between SR250 and SR300 during the Qiyam Al-Layl, said tour operators in Hai Al-Wizarat district.

“The hike in the Umrah package prices is due to the huge rush of pilgrims during Ramadan,” said tour operator Al-Fajr, also citing an increase in value-added tax to 15 percent as one of the reasons for soaring prices when compared to pre-pandemic years.

“Most people want to spend Ramadan in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah,” Abdur Rahman Oomeri, a Riyadh resident who came to inquire about Umrah packages, told Arab News.

There are about 100 Umrah travel operators spread throughout the capital, most of them in the districts of Hai Al-Wizarat and Batha.

Rises in Umrah package prices are seen every year during Ramadan, only halting with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since pandemic restrictions were lifted, however, prices have soared due to a high influx of Umrah pilgrims returning to the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Flights from Riyadh to Jeddah are also filling up quickly.

“Tickets for some of the closer dates are not available as they sold out amid the heavy Ramadan rush,” Mohammed Aslam Jameel, a supervisor at a Riyadh travel company, told Arab News.

“I booked a Riyadh to Jeddah round trip for Friday (March 22) for my family in the third week of February 2024 and it cost me SR592 per person, but after checking the price of tickets now, I can tell you they range between SR1,000 to SR1,500. For next week, it costs about SR2,000 and if you want to travel during the Qiyam Al-Layl, it will cost about SR2,500.  

“There are comparatively cheaper tickets for odd timings, but they too will total around SR1,000 now,” he added.

Ticket prices for international flights too have soared on dates close to Eid Al-Fitr as many expatriates plan to travel back home to celebrate Eid with their family and friends. Final exams in international schools are also over now and classes will resume when schools reopen after Eid Al-Fitr.    

Mohammed Serajuddin, an Indian working with the King Saud University and who is traveling to India on April 4 to join his family for Eid celebrations, told Arab News: “I booked my Riyadh to New Delhi ticket on Feb. 28, which cost me SR985, but now if I book the ticket for the same date, it will cost about SR1,200.”


Saudi deputy FM participates in Sudan peace efforts meeting 

Saudi deputy FM participates in Sudan peace efforts meeting 
Updated 25 July 2024
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Saudi deputy FM participates in Sudan peace efforts meeting 

Saudi deputy FM participates in Sudan peace efforts meeting 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed Al-Khuraiji participated on Wednesday in the Second Consultative Meeting Enhancing Coordination of Peace Initiatives and Efforts in Sudan, the Saudi Press Agency said.

During the meeting held in Djibouti, he reiterated the Kingdom’s continued efforts to resolve the Sudanese crisis, and its welcome and openness to international efforts and initiatives aimed at achieving peace in Sudan.

Al-Khuraiji said that the US and the Kingdom facilitated talks between the Sudanese parties in Jeddah, resulting in signing of the Jeddah Declaration to protect civilians in Sudan.

He expressed Saudi Arabia’s keenness on the return of security and stability to Sudan and urging the Sudanese parties to give priority to wisdom and self-restraint, and to show flexibility and respond to positive and humanitarian initiatives.


ThePlace: Mount Daka and Shams Al-Assil — two lookouts with a view to the Red Sea

ThePlace: Mount Daka and Shams Al-Assil — two lookouts with a view to the Red Sea
Updated 25 July 2024
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ThePlace: Mount Daka and Shams Al-Assil — two lookouts with a view to the Red Sea

ThePlace: Mount Daka and Shams Al-Assil — two lookouts with a view to the Red Sea

TAIF: In Saudi Arabia's western province of Makkah, the Mount Daka and Shams Al-Assil viewpoints overlook rare scenes of the Red Sea shore with its blue waters, which astounds tourists who also experience the divine beauty of Taif's peaks and mountains. 
At more than 2,560 meters above sea level, Mount Daka, located in the heart of Ash Shafa, can be seen from the natural viewpoint of Shams Al-Assil, from which one can observe the sparkling waters of the Red Sea. The mountain is one of the destinations that tourists and visitors seek to reach to experience its breathtaking nature. 

At more than 2,560 meters above sea level, Mount Daka is one of the destinations that nature-lovers seek to reach to experience its breathtaking nature.  (SPA)

Mount Daka's enchanting and attractive environment is replete with different kinds of wildlife that live under the shades of juniper, acacia, sidr and salam trees, and in its granite rocks. Rain and fog may form over it, and its flowers and aromatic plants are a safe haven for swarms of bees that produce honey. 
The mount is a highly sought-after spot in the Sarawat Mountains range because of its abundant land and the animals that inhabit it, including rock hyraxes, ibex, rabbits, and Arabian leopards. 

At more than 2,560 meters above sea level, Mount Daka is one of the destinations that nature-lovers seek to reach to experience its breathtaking nature.  (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s coastal reforestation program on track 

Saudi Arabia’s coastal reforestation program on track 
Updated 25 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s coastal reforestation program on track 

Saudi Arabia’s coastal reforestation program on track 
  • Some 13 million mangrove seedlings had been planted so far since the launch of the ambitious coastal forest cover program a year ago
  • The program aims to plant 100 million mangrove trees along the Kingdom's Red Sea and Arabian Gulf coasts by 2030

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on track to reach its target to plant 100 million mangrove trees by 2030, in line with the Saudi Green Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Some 13 million mangrove seedlings had been planted so far since the launch of the ambitious coastal forest cover program a year ago, said a progress report of the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification (NCVC) carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Mangroves work in concert with coral reefs and seagrass beds to keep coastal zones healthy, say marine scientists. (SPA)

Most of the projects are currently being carried out along the Kingdom's Red Sea coast, with Jazan province topping the list at 5.5 million seedlings. Makkah province followed with 2.4 million seedlings; Madinah, 2 million; Tabuk, 1.5 million; and Asir, 1 million. 

In the Kingdom's Arabian Gulf coast, the Eastern Province has planted 500,000 so far, according to the report. But before the formal launch of the project along the Arabian Gulf, the center noted that 700,000 seedlings had already been planted, including 200,000 on Ras Abu Ali Island, in Jubail governorate, and 500,000 in Al-Wajh governorate. 

"The project includes fencing and caring for the seedlings, to protect them from algae and seaweed, and protecting the sites from grazing and encroachment," the SPA reported.

In the western province of Asir, the NVCV and the Asir Region Development Authority (ASDA) launched on Wednesday the campaign “Mangrove Restoration” on the province's coasts as part of the activities of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, which is observed annually on July 26.

Mangrove planting in Asir region's Al-Barak governorate. (SPA)

The campaign started by planting 500 mangrove seedlings on the beaches of Al-Barak governorate, with Al-Barak Gov. Abdullah bin Ali bin Muhya and Mayor Nasser Saeed Al-Shahrani leading the event.

"The initiative is intended to raise awareness about the importance of planting and protecting mangrove forests, educate society about the importance of mangroves and their positive impact on the environment, highlight the role of these trees in the climate change crisis and in mitigating global warming...," said the report.

Mangroves, working in concert with seagrass beds and coral reefs, keep coastal zones healthy, say marine scientists. 

They have been found to provide essential habitat for thousands of species, stabilize shorelines, prevent erosion and protect communities from waves and storms.

"An estimated 75 percent of commercially caught fish spend some time in the mangroves or depend on food webs that can be traced back to these coastal forests," according the American Museum of Natural History.

Many countries suffering from severe mangrove destruction, are suffering from continuing decline in their fish catch.


Saudi electric car consumer base growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology

Saudi electric car consumer base growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology
Updated 24 July 2024
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Saudi electric car consumer base growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology

Saudi electric car consumer base growing as Kingdom aims to become a hub for the technology

RIYADH: Hamed Al-Rafidain, who works in HR, drives a fuel-guzzling 4 X 4, as many in Saudi Arabia do — but his other car is electric.

Al-Rafidain, 39, is part of a small but growing electric vehicle consumer base in the Kingdom, which aims to become a hub for the technology.

“What drove me to buy electric was financial considerations,” said Rafidain, who spends up to SR2,000 ($530) a month on fuel for his off-road vehicle. “Maintenance costs are also lower compared to a conventional vehicle, with no oil changes.”

For a little over $53,300, he bought a BYD mostly for short trips within the capital. Driving outside Riyadh was a “gamble, especially since the infrastructure is still underdeveloped,” Rafidain said.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, owns 60 percent of electric car maker Lucid and South Korea’s Hyundai plans a factory in the Kingdom. The Saudi brand CEER, launched in 2022, expects to start production in 2025. Eventually Saudi Arabia aims to produce 300,000 electric cars a year.

Meanwhile Chinese giant BYD is expected to dominate the Saudi market, since its global rival Tesla has no dealerships in the Kingdom.
Electric car sales tripled last year to nearly 800 and salesman Hassan Mohammed expects more this year. “More than one car brand has opened its doors in the Kingdom and now offers after-sales service, which has encouraged consumers,” he said.


Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 
Updated 24 July 2024
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Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent letters of condolences to Kuwait’s Emir Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah over the death of Sheikh Jaber Duaij Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah, the Saudi Press Agency said Wednesday.

The Crown Prince also sent a separate letter to Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Jaber died at the age of 71 and will be buried after Thursday’s Maghrib (Sunset) prayer, Kuwait’s news agency said.